The Hickory Ridge gym holds a banner in the rafters that says "Soccer," and the rest of it is blank.
This season, the Ragin' Bulls' soccer program hopes to start filling that banner, as Hickory Ridge looks to challenge for the South Piedmont Conference title and beyond.
"As a soccer program, we have been through the trials of being a new school, and then last year we went through the transition of having a new coach," said coach Scott Wolfe.
"Now, we feel like we are ready to take the next step, and be in the conversation for a conference title and a playoff run."
After winning 10, 11 and 10 games in the first three seasons, respectively, Wolfe and company are looking for more.
Hickory Ridge is off to their best start in school history at 6-1-1 overall, 2-0 in the SPC, having outscored their opponents 30 to 5 on the season. The Ragin' Bulls already have wins over Porter Ridge, Mooresville and Mount Pleasant and tied Marvin Ridge when the Mavericks were ranked No. 1 in the state.
"We've been a solid program, consistently finishing third or fourth in the SPC, and going to the playoffs," said Wolfe. This year, on paper, it seems right that it is their turn to be in the mix, he said.
Wolfe says it all starts with a deep, talented and balanced team that features 11 seniors.
The defense has led the way this season as senior goalkeeper Drew Andreotti, a third-year starter, has been stingy, along with central defenders Eric Frederick and Jason Hladik. Frederick and Hladik have helped the defense make up for the loss of all-conference defender Nathan Fox, who sprained his MCL. Fox should be back in a few weeks to help a strong back four get even better.
"Our defense has been even stronger and more consistent than I thought they would be," said Wolfe, as his defense has not allowed more than one goal in a game. "We are not just playing good defense, but also building our offense out of the back."
One of the main links between the offense and defense this season has been senior midfielder Chris Faber.
While Faber is not the strongest or the fastest, according to Wolfe, he may be the most opportunistic, as he has already scored five goals and dished out five assists, including the game-winning goal against Porter Ridge, the game-tying goal against Marvin Ridge and the go-ahead goal against Mooresville.
Senior forward Matt Abbott has also played a big role in the offense, as he has a team-leading six goals. But while Abbott and Faber have led the way, the strength of the Hickory Ridge teams comes in multiple weapons and numbers.
"We are a more dangerous team, because you really can't look us and say, 'OK, we have to stop these two guys.'" said Wolfe.
"We pride ourselves on having a lot of interchangeable parts and a lot of versatile guys so that we are hard to stop."
In order to challenge for an SPC title, the Ragin' Bulls must first overtake perennial conference powers like Jay M. Robinson and Northwest Cabarrus.
But Wolfe and company hope an SPC title is just one of many firsts that they can accomplish this season.
"We have an opportunity this season to do things that have never been done at Hickory Ridge," said Wolfe. "We want to be the first team to win the conference, the first team to win a playoff game, and we talk about these things all the time."